Following Wake's 84-55 loss to Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC tournament last Thursday, the number one topic of discussion for Wake fans has been the future of Jeff Bzdelik. Widely vilified throughout his four years in Winston-Salem, most fans appear to be clamoring for Bzdelik's exit as his four-year record with the Demon Deacons sits at a paltry 51-76, including a horrific 17-51 record in conference play.
While the general consensus among not only the fanbase, but also the national media, is that Bzdelik will not return for his fifth season, the situation is further complicated by Athletic Director Ron Wellman's absence from Winston-Salem due to duties corresponding with his responsibility as the head of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Wellman, who was sequestered in Indianapolis for the better part of the previous week, remained in Dayton on Tuesday night for the opening two games of the NCAA Tournament. Wellman is expected to return to North Carolina over the next two days where a decision is expected to come down regarding Bzdelik's future with the Deacs.
Sources close to the situation have intimated that a press conference will likely occur either towards the end of the week when the main portion of the tournament kicks off, or early next week to disclose Wellman's future plans for the basketball program. Rumors were afloat from several different sources articulating the belief that Bzdelik told the team following a home loss to Boston College that he would not be returning for the 2014-15 season. These rumors remain just that though as attempts to verify this information have been generally fruitless. Despite the overwhelming distaste for Bzdelik's presence overseeing the team from nearly every single Wake fan, it appears somewhat unclear what will unfold when the press conference ultimately takes place.
Only compounding this general confusion, journalist and sportswriter John Feinstein reported on his Tuesday afternoon radio show that reliable sources told him that Jeff Bzdelik would not be fired by Wake Forest, but rather two assistant coaches would get the ax instead. The current assistant coaches on staff are veteran Jeff Battle along with two former Wake Forest players in Rusty LaRue and Randolph Childress.
Beyond Feinstein's proclamation on Tuesday, there has been relative media silence regarding the Bzdelik decision. Furthermore, the delay in any press release or statement from the Athletic Department has only served to continue a downward spiral of contempt directed towards Wake Forest from a devoted fan base eager to sink their teeth into any piece of good news regarding the beloved basketball program. The fan base is hungry for success after four years of wandering in the desert without a single postseason tournament appearance and they desperately want a successful coach at the helm.
Wellman's absence this past week was foreseen throughout the season as he was selected to serve as the committee chair well before it was made clear that a decision would need to be made about Jeff Bzdelik. With both Virginia Tech and Boston College relieving their respective coaches of their duties, Wake Forest remains alone with Georgia Tech as the only ACC schools left to make a decision about their current staff. While Wellman's timing is unfortunate, it's somewhat understandable that he would not be around to make an announcement early this week as he would be preoccupied in Dayton with tournament duties. What is less understandable however, is why there was any need to wait to this point to make a decision.
No one can ever say for sure what Wellman is thinking, but in the event that he is going to let Bzdelik go there were a multitude of other ways that he could have handled the situation without waiting unnecessarily long to officially fire the embattled head coach. While most coaches who would have any interest in the position may be well aware that the position will in fact be open, not to mention most coaches Wake will be targeting are in the NCAA Tournament, there is no downside to making an early decision and then leaving the position open while you pursue your head coaching targets. Wellman could have let Bzdelik go after the regular season and prior to the ACC Tournament. He also could have prepared a statement about Bzdelik ready to be released the second Wake inevitably lost in the ACC tournament. Either of these tactics would have circumvented the problem introduced by Wellman's required presence in Indianapolis and Dayton over the previous few days.
Wellman has shown a proclivity to wait until he was close to filling the position to make the position officially vacant in the past, but it remains unclear why this is necessary. Yes, the media criticized N.C. State a few years back when the coaching position was vacant for nearly a month, but they ultimately got their guy and are back on the right track with their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Wake fans on the other hand are rightfully antsy over whether or not Bzdelik will be fired at all and it shows as nearly every conversation in person and on the message boards over the past week has been about when Bzdelik will be fired. Most fans were ready for Bzdeilk to be fired last year to no benefit, and many fans remain skeptical that Wellman is ready to admit his mistake in hiring Bzdelik and move on to the next coach.
We do not have any concrete answers here at Blogger So Dear as Wellman has played this close to the chest in his usual style. If I had to personally take an educated guess, I would surmise that a press conference will be called on Thursday or Friday where Jeff Bzdelik will "resign" as the head coach of the program. This will allow Wake plenty of time to pursue viable candidates and find the right fit moving forward. If Feinstein's sources are correct and Wellman will simply be firing assistant coaches while leaving the head coach untouched, I would anticipate a reaction by the Wake fan base unlike any we have yet to see. Concisely stated it would be an indefensible and appalling decision with devastating short and long-term effects on the program.
Nobody knows for sure what the next few days hold, but for all the latest information stay tuned to Blogger So Dear as we will have the coverage regardless of what decision Wellman makes. One can only hope that over the next few days fans will be able to leavethis purgatory they have resided in since last Thursday and finally rise from the hell in which they have been living over the past four years.
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